Sunday, June 03, 2007

Jukebox Juicebox #31 - Forever Green

Green Gartside
Venn Festival, Arnolfini, Bristol, 02/06/2007

A relatively late addition to the line-up of the fourth annual Venn Festival, I was expecting this to be a solo set, maybe acoustic guitar, some samples, and little more. In fact, as we poured into the recently revamped Arnolfini’s upper auditorium, the frantic activity onstage indicated that I was way off in my assumption. Green Gartside took to the stage just after 6.00pm, introducing “some of Scritti Politti” – namely Rodhri Marsden on keyboards, Alyssa McDonald on bass, Dave Ferrett on keyboards and occasional bass. As with all of the Venn Festival performances, this was a short set at just under three quarters of an hour. However, of the nine songs performed, five of them were brand new – incredible given the 7 year gap between White Bread Black Beer and Anhomie & Bonhomie (and nearly 2 decades since Provision). It’s been six months since the band performed live and, given Green’s much documented onstage nerves, the limitations of the Arnolfini set up, and a predominantly brand new set, it would have been reasonable to assume that things would be pretty shaky. An unfortunate consequence of Dave Ferrett moving from keyboards to bass for several songs was that bassist Alyssa McDonald was left standing like the proverbial gooseberry on stage, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. However, in spite of this, frequent gestures and requests from the band to adjust the levels and Green’s self deprecating comments about their performance, the set was jaw droppingly wonderful. Of course, the highlight was Green’s voice itself, amazingly managing to achieve the same kind of spine tingling beauty that it delivers on record. Of the new songs, Unfrozen is a layered acoustic number whilst Forgiven incorporates some affecting tweeting and piano sounds. Two Minute and Antarctic recall the hip hop inspired sounds of the greatly underrated Anhomie & Bonhomie. Antarctic was dedicated to The Yin Yang Twins; like most of Green’s references this evening, this was lost on the audience, including me until I Googled them. The fifth and final new track, which Green claimed to have “completed in the dressing room” loosely seemed to be about the US Civil War’s most famous Confederate General, Robert E. Lee, though I could be wrong! The penultimate song of the set, this was quite a folky number. The set opened and closed with tracks from White Bread Black Beer, namely Robin Hood and The Boom Boom Bap, with the infectious E Eleventh Nuts also represented. Great though these were, even better was the inclusion of The ‘Sweetest Girl’, which I never thought I'd hear performed live. The hapless Alyssa McDonald particularly shone with her bass playing on this song. Before ending the set with The Boom Boom Bap, Green asked the guy at the sound desk if he could buy him a pint of Guinness to save queuing at the bar (a good call: despite the revamp, the Arnolfini bar is still a nightmare). As my beloved, my friend and I sat outside on the dockside still reeling from the incredible gig we’d just seen, I was pleased to see Green walk past with his crew, clutching the remains of his black beer. Let's hope he brings Scritti Politti back to Bristol for another round.

[Set list]: 1. Robin Hood / 2. Unfrozen * / 3. E Eleventh Nuts / 4. Forgiven * / 5. Two Minute * / 6. The ‘Sweetest Girl’ / 7. Antarctic ** / 8. Robert ** / 9. The Boom Boom Bap
[* introduced as working titles, ** no titles given]

The excellent Scritti Politti fan site bibbly-o-tek includes a 10 minute segment from BBC Radio 2's Charles Hazlewood Show on 16th May 2007, where the presenter interviewed Green Gartside and premiered Unfrozen and Forgiven. Listen here

Green Gartside interviewed by Scotland On Sunday (June 2006) and Digital Spy (July 2006)

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Blogger Rhodri said...

hey hey

Glad you enjoyed it! Alyssa had percussion duties on the songs where she was doing nothing, but the percussion instruments in question had mysteriously disappeared. Hey ho!

(And "Robert" was indeed completed in the dressing room.)


1:38 pm  
Blogger Khayem said...

Hi Rhodri,

Thanks for dropping by with the updates!

By the way, the Lady Boys of Bangkok seem to visit Bristol every year. Spotting two of the performers in full regalia sitting in Castle Park last year, smoking a fag and giggling like 9 year olds certainly contrasted with the usual incumbents...!

(There's a link to Rhodri's website in my original review, but it's worth plugging again here as 'Facts Of Life' (03 June) recounts the band's Bristol exploits. Go to:

7:11 am  

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